Author Archives: blackinkwithcab

Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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On the ranch, On the road

A Heritage of Quality

The first thing we talked about was how dry the winter had been. It was mid-April and the Kansas prairie didn’t look a day after January. Andy Larson’s cows were out on pasture near Green, Kan., but still being supplemented as, ironically, there was very little green grass in sight.

While it was too early to tell if the drought would last the whole year (it didn’t), the knowledge that it could brought memories of the five generations before him. They persevered and brought Larson Family Farms through the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, 1980 financial crisis and many other difficult times. Today, Andy manages the 500 commercial Angus cows and thousands of acres of pasture and crops with his father Raymond.


Andy Larson says focusing on quality is simply carrying on a legacy started in 1872. With a degree in ag business and an MBA, he brings his own skillset back to the family operation.

“We’re just your normal Kansas operation, built by generations of hardworking family members,” the younger Larson says.

The family started with a Hereford herd and over the years have bred up to an Angus herd that consistently reaches high-quality marks. Last year 60% of the 181 finished calves sent to market qualified for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

Andy says they accomplished that through a combination of breeding, nutrition and utilizing carcass data.

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Andy combines information he stores in Angus Information Management Software (AIMS®) with the carcass data he gets back from the packer to make informed decisions.

“There are a lot of things we do to try to make sure once that calf hits the feedyard, he’s prepared to excel,” he says. “It starts with nutrition, includes health, and some of it comes back to genetics.”

Taught by those generations before him, Andy wants to keep stepping things up. One example? Performance and finishing cattle earlier without sacrificing quality.

“We want to be known as somebody who has a product that can be stood behind,” Andy says. “Everything we do here, we do with the goal of producing beef with the intention of maximizing the quality of that animal, and then doing it as efficiently as possible.”

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Although they have gotten some spring moisture since this early April photo, they are still behind on the year.

His family farm history runs deep.

As the industry changes, he wants to keep up, “but not forget that we’re here for producing a quality product, and that we’re here to do things the right way.”

He knows the operation was not built overnight and that the drive to produce the best was inherited.

“We’re stewards of the cattle. We’re just the caretakers,” he says. “It’s all for somebody on down the line.”


PS–To learn more about Andy Larson and his operation, watch for an upcoming story in the Angus Beef Bulletin.

Jill at ECC


Jill Seiler recently completed her 2018 spring producer communications internship. Her dairy farm upbringing, combined with Kansas State University ag communications education, gave her experience to draw on when interviewing ranchers and researchers the past few months.


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On the road

What the dairy farm taught me about quality beef

When I attended kindergarten, it was only a half-day requirement. They’ve since changed that at St. Jude Catholic School in Wichita, Kan., but those afternoons free let me do some of my favorite things. I would take a nap, watch a little PBS and, if it was a really good day, I would head to the barn, grab my five-gallon bucket, tip it upside down and help my dad milk cows in our double-six herringbone barn.

I was in charge of the most important step of milking: the pre-dip, which is an iodine solution used to clean away bacteria before milking. A higher amount of bacteria in the milk leads to lower quality milk. Those afternoons helping with our 100 Holstein cows taught me a lot about how to do things right to achieve a good product.

At this point, you may be wondering if you accidentally clicked on the wrong link. This is the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) blog, right? What is all this talk about kindergarten and dairy cows? Well, as a dairy farmer’s daughter and intern with CAB, I’ve seen a lot of similarities between my upbringing and the work it takes to produce high-quality beef.

2011 group2 261As an intern I attended the Youth Leaders Orientation at CAB headquarters in Ohio. I learned about the 10 specifications for the brand, and having been a collegiate meat judger, it all began to make sense.

The reason CAB is so popular with consumers is because they are guaranteed a great eating experience each time — and that’s possible because of the hard work producers put into achieving that high-quality, wholesome product.

Just like my dad and I are meticulous with the prep work before milking and the environment our cows live in—making sure they stay dry and clean to reduce cases of mastitis—ranchers are also precise about the management of their herds. These past four months, I have heard about the countless hours cattlemen spend selecting the right genetics and then feeding them correctly, making sure they receive all the nutrients and minerals they need. They pay attention to all the management details so that they meet those 10 specs.


On a story trip earlier this semester, I learned that dairy farmers and beef producers have a lot in common.

If there is one thing I will take away from this internship, it’s that even though high-quality beef is very different from the milk I have helped harvest all of my life, the people involved have much in common. Whether it is beef or dairy, the producers care about attaining a high level of quality and that requires a high level of management. From record keeping, to artificial insemination, breeding programs and nutrition, there are many similarities between those in the beef and dairy industry when it comes to realizing a high-quality end product.

When I go home from college this weekend to help milk I won’t need that five-gallon bucket to reach the cows, but I will have an even greater appreciation of striving for quality.


Jill at ECC

Jill Seiler just completed her 2018 spring producer communications internship. Her dairy farm upbringing, combined with Kansas State University ag communications education, gave her experience to draw on when interviewing ranchers and researchers the past few months.

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On the ranch, On the road

‘Worth the squeeze’

Used cars. Potential dates. Bred heifers.

A prudent shopper for any of the above is wise to wonder: How well were they cared for before I came around? What impact did the last person leave for me to deal with? What shape are they in now?

It’s no different in journalism.

A quick google search may reveal if a family I’m preparing to interview has been written about before, but it doesn’t tell me about their experience with the journalist.

So when a conversation starts with… “I did an interview for this paper once, and let me tell you…” I cringe a little. Was the last writer looking for a story this person’s experience didn’t play in to? Did they twist their words on purpose, or just accidentally use them out of context? Or did they nail it, leaving such a memorably positive experience that this rancher just can’t wait to share in hopes my story will mirror it?

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Robin Frank says he’s built his cow herd by listening to the markets.

In this case, Robin Frank pointed out the peculiar way journalists can pick up on some small detail or off-the-cuff comment and upgrade it – perhaps disproportionately – to a headline. It was something about a purple cow… how he didn’t care what color it was, if it was making the most money, he was going to work to breed it, build it and sell it.

He rolled his eyes a little at being then dubbed the ‘purple cow’ guy.

“Of all the things they could have picked for the headline, that’s what they went with?”

And yet, I couldn’t help myself. After all, he did come up with some colorful analogies. And, he used the phrase no less than five times in our afternoon together on their Hatfield, Missouri, ranch, so it wasn’t exactly obscure: “the juice has to be worth the squeeze.”

As in, if you’re putting extra work in, there better be extra pay at the end.

2017_03_CAB FrankRanch-10smallThat easily became a headline – set to publish in an upcoming edition of the Angus Journal.

“Listen to the markets – consumers will let you know what they want, and they’ll buy the heck out of it,” Robin says.

That’s the juice, but how do you calculate the squeeze? The only way to truly tell the value of what’s leaking out of the bottom line is to study the numbers, he and son Shannon agree.

In the past 11 years, while transitioning to an all-Angus commercial herd, they moved from an average 1,425-pound (lb.) cow to a 1,217-lb. average in the spring herd, while pushing weaning weights up to fill the gap and achieve an average 49% percentage of weaning to dam weight.


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“It may look like you’re losing from the outside, but when we really put the numbers to it–and we’re running a smaller cow, with a smaller bull and a smaller calf—we’re talking about cost per acre to produce this, and it works,” Robin says.

Looking further down the line on the feedyard side, they’ve found a worthwhile balance in carcass premiums. In 2012, a group of their steers finished with 53% Prime carcasses. A couple years later, another group hit 81% Prime.

“With that many Primes, it’s worth the squeeze,” he says.

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Shannon Frank joins his father in the quest for a smaller cow, producing more pounds of quality beef.

Shannon speaks a touch more plainly: “I’m trying to make the most money a person can make here, so that I can keep doing this for a long time.”  

Straightforward, much like their approach to building the efficient, data-driven herd you can read about in their feature.

Until then, keep questioning.


lnelson-mugLaura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains wooed her back west.


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On the road

Chow down in Cowtown

When I met my husband eight years ago, I was living in Fort Worth, working for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association as associate editor and social media manager for The Cattleman magazine.

Since we got married in 2010 and I subsequently moved to his hometown of Electra (population 2,722), people will frequently ask if I miss the big city.

The answer is always the same: No. I’m much better suited for life in the boonies, and the view outside my office window these days — Angus cows — sure beats the skyscrapers.

But there is one thing I do miss. The restaurants. Fort Worth is home to some of my favorite eating establishments in the country. There truly is something for everyone — especially beef lovers like us.

Since so many of you will be visiting Fort Worth this weekend for Angus Convention, we’ve pulled together a list of our brand partners in the general vicinity of the Fort Worth Convention Center. Because no doubt one of the biggest perks of being in the big city is getting a chance to eat at some of the restaurants featuring the high-quality beef you work hard to raise.

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Here’s where you’ll be: the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Check out some of the great eateries below while you’re in town, and be sure to visit this page for options on where to purchase the Certified Angus Beef  ® brand wherever you are.


Check out these steakhouses in Fort Worth to enjoy a sizzlin’ steak hot off the grill!


Cast Iron Restaurant
1300 Houston Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
Inside Omni Hotel

Riscky’s Steakhouse
120 E Exchange Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76164
3 Miles from Convention Center

Silver Fox Steakhouse
1651 S. University Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76107
3 Miles from Convention Center
Convention Special:  Certified Angus Beef  ® brand bone-in filet

Saltgrass Steak House
5845 Sandshell Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76137
9 Miles from Convention Center

Casual Dining

Cheesecake Factory
455 Commerce Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
.5 Mile from Convention Center

Cantina Laredo
530 Throckmorton Street
Fort Worth, TX 76102
.6 Mile from Convention Center

Riscky’s BBQ
2314 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76164
5 Miles from Convention Center

Poor Daddy’s Smokehouse
7509 Boulevard 26
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
12 Miles from Convention Center

54th Street Restaurant & Drafthouse
9251 Rain Lily Trail, Fort Worth, TX 76177
12 Miles from Convention Center

Johnny Rockets
2201 Road to Six Flags St. E
Arlington, TX 76011
15 Miles from Convention Center

Next Wood Fired Bistro & Bar
5003 Colleyville Boulevard
Colleyville, TX 76034
15 Miles from Convention Center

Fast Casual

Jersey Mike’s
6318 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76116
6 Miles from Convention Center

9127 Boulevard 26, Ste 140
North Richland Hills, TX 76180
13 Miles from Convention Center


Katrina Huffstutler is a freelance writer based in Electra, Texas. She’s a frequent contributor to the Black Ink team and lover of functional cattle and quality beef.

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Following the Calves, On the ranch, On the road

Following the calves: Trade-offs, but never satisfied

It’s a trade-off most Montanans welcomed with open arms.

Snow in September brought moisture that easily trumped any ideals of a long Indian Summer or an idyllic fall.

“We didn’t have a drop of rain starting the 15th of June, and so much hot weather this summer, you couldn’t find green anywhere,” Bruce Keaster says. “The dogs were kicking up dust it was so dry.”

They were fortunate, Bruce says: Just one fire two miles west of them that burned 500 acres was pretty darn good in a season marked by more than 1 million acres burning in Montana—and a full month of smoke so thick, most of the state registered unhealthy air quality for days or even weeks at a time.


This photo was taken when we started following Bruce’s calves, but I bet his smile was just as big when the snows came last month.

Gathering this year’s calf crop off the parched land to precondition, he’s been pleasantly surprised. Little to no respiratory issues from the smoke and so far, weaning weights are right on track. That’s the resiliency and performance he and long-time feeding partner Ryan Loseke depend on.

As they prepare to ship the 2017 calves, they review the 2016 crop we began following almost exactly a year ago.

“They’re just solid, stout cattle that gain well, convert well,” Ryan says. “These would be really fun cattle to feed until July.”

But market pressure can take the “for fun” right out of feeding cattle.

“The market was sliding; it was telling us that the first week of May and April was the time to sell them,” Ryan says.

While he aims to finish at 1,400 lbs. at 14 months of age, the May-harvested calves were averaging 1,375 at 13.5 months, converting at an impressive rate in the high fives, in pounds of dry matter to a pound of beef. The first set of steers, harvested in mid-April, graded 81% Choice, with 23% meeting carcass specifications for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

They could have been 1,475 lb. two months later, and would have expressed more of their genetic potential to marble, the feeder noted, but it was a marketing trade-off he had to make.

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As Nebraska cattle feeder Ryan Loseke was making decisions about marketing the 2016-born calf crop, the 2017 calves were thriving.

Just a couple weeks later, when the next load went to harvest, they sacrificed less. With a bit more finish, they stepped up to more than 90% Choice, 39% CAB and 2% Prime.

“At 180 days on feed, I think it’s pretty hard to see more Primes than that,” Ryan says, adding that the shortened feeding window and aggressive implant strategy suppressed marbling.

“Performance has always been my No. 1 priority in bull selection, and I’m happy with where we are on that. It’s in there,” Bruce says.

A few years ago, he did a HD50K DNA test to get an idea of how years of studying EPDs were playing out on unproven bull calves. While it confirmed his exacting focus in many areas, he found marbling potential to be about average: “That was a bit of a disappointment that it wasn’t better, but that’s how you learn,” he says. “So, from where we were a few year ago on the carcass, that 40%, that’s an improvement.”

This year, he’ll HD50K the latest generation to check progress.

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Always looking to the future, and asking questions to help guide him, Bruce Keaster is excited to keep moving the needle forward.

“I don’t know if I’ll see the day where everything is CAB, but we’re working on it, that’s for sure,” Bruce says. “I’m happy they did as well as they did, but I’m never satisfied. Ryan said the health was really good, I’m always glad to hear that. They gained well – that’s great. But I’m not satisfied, because I know we can be better.”

Of course, that’s the spirit that has made this past year of “Following the Calves” so fun for me from behind the camera and keyboard, and I hope, for you, the reader, too.

I thanked him for his time and willingness to open up the ranch and his family to all of us, and Bruce returned the gratitude: “Your questions have kept me thinking, made me examine these things even more, kept me questioning.”

I think back to my first interview with Ryan, where he noted Bruce’s questions and interest in how his calves did after the ranch as one of the characteristics that made being in business with him so much fun, too.

Those questions we ask ourselves and others, in the search for answers, we trade our complacency or the comfort of “status quo” for continual improvement. Thanks for following along this year, and until next time… keep questioning.


P.S. – If you want to read all of the Keaster family’s story, catch up on the ‘Following the Calves’ posts: Maternal instincts, predictable cattle; Keaster family checks in, Friends and neighbors 1,000 miles away.

And travel to the Hadrick ranch in South Dakota, too!


Laura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains woo’d her back west.

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